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David A. Walega/FilmMagic via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The iconic 146-year-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will hold its final performances in May as “The Greatest Show on Earth” comes to an end.

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the circus, confirmed the show’s closing to ABC News in a statement citing a decline in ticket sales along with the high cost of touring, particularly after elephants were removed from performances.

“We are grateful to the hundreds of millions of fans who have experienced Ringling Bros. over the years,” Feld Entertainment chairman and CEO Kenneth Feld said in a statement. “Between now and May, we will give them one last chance to experience the joy and wonder of Ringling Bros.”

The news comes after Kristen Michelle Wilson made history this week as the first woman ringmaster to run the show at Ringling Bros.

The entertainment company will hold a press conference on Monday to discuss the circus’ closing. The final performances of the two circus units will be at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7, and at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ZAGAN, Poland) — More than 3,000 U.S. troops were welcomed by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and the country’s defense minister, Antoni Macierewicz, on Saturday in a NATO show of force.

In the snowy, western Polish town of Zagan, Szydlo said it was an important day “for Poland, for Europe and our common defense” as the U.S. troops were sent under “Operation Atlantic Resolve” to reassure NATO allies against Russian threats.

The U.S. force, which includes troops and tanks, is expected to rotate every nine months through several countries in Eastern Europe. It marks the first time western forces have been deployed on a continuous basis to NATO’s Eastern Flank.

“America will always stand with Poland to defend freedom,” U.S. ambassador Paul W. Jones said Saturday.

Russian officials this week criticized the increased military presence of its neighbor. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told BBC the move “threatens our interests and our security.”

“It’s a third country that is building up its military presence on our borders in Europe,” he said to BBC. “It isn’t even a European country.”

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US Launch Report(LOMPOC, Calif.) — SpaceX’s Falcon 9 returned to flight, launching successfully from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Saturday, just four and a half months after a fiery explosion destroyed Facebook’s AMOS-6 satellite.

An investigation conducted by SpaceX (with assists from the Air Force, NASA, and the National Transportation Safety Board) concluded that the September 1 explosion was likely caused by a failure of a pressurized second-stage tank.

The company, which is run by billionaire Elon Musk, vowed to change the fueling procedures to prevent the incident from recurring, and the FAA granted a launch license.

The launch on Saturday delivered 10 Iridium satellites to low-earth orbit for use in mobile communications.

After separation, the rocket’s first stage landed on the droneship “Just Read the Instructions,” stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

SpaceX nailed a similar droneship landing back in April. Returning the first stage to earth enables the company to reuse the rocket, drastically reducing the cost of launch.

Musk has said his ultimate goal is to start a colony on Mars by reducing the cost of a one-way trip from $10 billion per person to just $200,000.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — President-elect Donald Trump has suggested that he is open to lifting the recently-imposed sanctions on Russia if Vladimir Putin assists the U.S. in its anti-terror initiatives and in other matters.

But the sanctions, imposed by President Obama in late December in response to Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the presidential election via cyberattacks, will remain for “at least for a period of time,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Friday night.

“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” he asked.

Trump also said that once he’s sworn in as the 45th president, he will happily meet with Putin. “I understand that they would like to meet, and that’s absolutely fine with me,” he said.

Also noteworthy was Trump’s suggestion that the American “One China” policy — which views Taiwan as part of China, not as a separate country — could be modified.

“Everything is under negotiation including ‘One China,'” Trump told The Wall Street Journal.

Such a move would anger China, considering it views Taiwan as a renegade province. China, for example, lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. after Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call last month from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump has repeatedly said in the past that he would label China a currency manipulator, but he told The Wall Street Journal he’s not looking to do that on his first day in the Oval Office. “I would talk to them first,” he said. “Certainly they are manipulators. But I’m not looking to do that.”

But he didn’t back down from his previous criticism of the Chinese. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re devaluating our currency,’ they say, ‘Oh, our currency is dropping.’ It’s not dropping,” he said. “They’re doing it on purpose … Our companies can’t compete with them now because our currency is strong and it’s killing us.”

Trump did have kind words to say about Chinese leader Xi Jinping, though, who sent the incoming commander in chief a holiday greeting card. “I have a beautiful card from the chairman,” he said.

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Image Source/Thinkstock(BERLIN) — An apparently drowned fox encased in a thick block of ice is being displayed in a small town in southern Germany.

Franz Stehle, a hunter, put the fox on display outside his home in Fridingen, near the upper reaches of the Danube, as a warning of the dangers of the icy river, according to BBC.

Stehle said he had discovered frozen deer and wild boars a number of times, noting it was not unusual for animals to break through the ice in the winter.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced an investigation into the Russian hacking scandal which has cast a pall over the 2016 election, lawmakers said Friday.

“As part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s oversight responsibilities we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States,” the statement said.

The U.S. intelligence community issued a report earlier this month saying that the Russian government and intelligence agencies, at the direction of the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, waged a campaign in an attempt to influence the U.S. election.

Part of the campaign included cyber operations that targeted the Democratic National Committee, according to intelligence officials.

President-elect Donald Trump cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment, only conceding this week that Russia was likely behind the hacking efforts.

According to the intelligence committee’s statement, the body will be reviewing the intelligence that led the IC to its conclusion, any potential links between Russian and individuals in the political campaigns and Russian cyberactivity directed against the U.S. during the election and “more broadly.”

The committee, which has subpoena power, led by Republican Richard Burr, of South Carolina, plans to interview members of both the Obama and Trump administrations.

“The Committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads,” the statement said. “We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right.”

Lawmakers from both political parties have expressed outrage over the suspected Russian activity.

“This issue impacts the foundations of our democratic system, it’s that important,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said. “This requires a full, deep, and bipartisan examination. At this time, I believe that this Committee is clearly best positioned to take on that responsibility, but whoever does this needs to do it right.”

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ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) — Silicon Valley is a shining beacon of American success, home to some of the most profitable and innovative companies in the world, including Google, Facebook, PayPal, Oracle and Apple.

Many employees at these tech giants enjoy large paychecks and a host of perks ranging from free dry cleaning to free food to gyms on site.

But there are thousands of other people working alongside them who don’t make enough money to afford housing near their jobs so many sleep in their cars between shifts. Some sleep in their cars because they are homeless.

Terrence Rollins is a 51-year-old bus driver who drives the shuttles that ferry tech employees across Silicon Valley to company campuses. He only has a few hours a night at home before he has to be back at work.

“I love my job,” Rollins said. “I get up at 3 [a.m.], I make it home about 11, 10 o’clock at night, and I’m constantly traveling. I mean, I have to take care of my family.”

The bus drivers who spoke with ABC News starting in 2015 work for independent contractors hired by tech companies. When we first met these drivers, they said their jobs provided few benefits and didn’t offer paid company holidays.

Some drivers are contracted to work what’s called a “split shift,” meaning they arrive for work at 6 a.m. to take tech employees to their offices, then have to wait around for a number of hours, unpaid, until it’s time to take the employees back home at the end of the day. These drivers work and are paid for a total of eight hours but over a 16-hour period.

They said the houses they can afford on their wages are too far away for them to get home between shifts, so many of them stay in their cars or nap at the bus depot.

In the bus depot where he is based, Rollins said there was one room with two beds for female drivers and another room with two beds for male drivers. But it wasn’t enough to accommodate the 35 to 40 drivers there on any given day.

“It’s just awful when you park inside and you have drivers covering their cars’ [windows] with blankets and towels,” said another driver named Jimmy.

Since ABC News began this report a year and a half ago, some service workers have unionized and their employers have worked with tech companies to raise wages and offer better benefits to many contract workers who lived at the edge of poverty.

These workers are an example of a growing trend in the U.S., in which large corporations contract out service jobs from other companies.

Scott Peebles, another driver ABC News spoke to in 2015, said he had been sleeping on an air mattress in his car for months. Peebles used a windshield reflector to help block out the light from the parking lot streetlamps while he slept.

“This is foreign to me,” he said, gesturing to his car. “It’s not the way you’re supposed to live. No, it’s just a mirror of society that we’re in right now and that’s — I’m probably part of millions of people that are doing this.”

“It’s sad that it comes down to this,” Peebles continued. “I mean, if people would know this, if corporations of businesses they work for, they would probably be aghast that their employees were living in a car or a van.”

At night, if they needed a restroom, the drivers would get out of their cars and walk into the bus depot.

Under union pressures and publicity about drivers receiving few benefits, Facebook now requires contractors to pay contract employees a minimum of $15 an hour, 15 days of paid time off, and a $4,000 stipend for new parents if their contractors don’t provide parental leave. Apple and Google followed suit with announcing 25 percent wage increases for all drivers.

Many security jobs are also now contracted out. Michael Johnson, who worked as a security guard for several companies, told ABC News the job has changed over the years.

“When I first started there were paid vacation, paid holidays, lots of times we got bonuses,” Johnson said. “It was like a regular job, it’s just that you were contract-working. You were treated like one of the gang.”

Eventually, Johnson said at the time he stopped receiving paid vacation time or paid sick leave and the hourly rate dropped.

“It was incredible what was happening,” he said. “It seemed like it just happened overnight.”

In Silicon Valley, amidst the luxury homes, the streets are lined with service workers who live in RVs and trailers.

“The folks that are living in these RVs, they are part of the low-wage economy that’s created around the tech industry,” said activist Derecka Mehrens. “There’s a real connection between these families and what happens in the industry.”

Some experts on contract workers say some of the jobs provide opportunities that didn’t exist before. Arthur Brooks of the Conservative American Enterprise Institute said,many workers “say that it gives them flexibility. Many of them are immigrants.”

But Tamara Draut, Vice President of Demos, a progressive think tank, disagreed that contracting and subcontracting helps workers, arguing that “in each link down that chain, the pressures grow to lower labor costs.”

Irma Alvarado is 72 years old and says she spent her life cleaning the offices at Visa, working the night shift from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. She shares a small house with her children and grandchildren. She is a legal immigrant who says she has lived and worked in the U.S. nearly 30 years.

When ABC News spoke to her in 2015, Alvarado said it was hard to watch Visa employees throw away food she would love to have and to see them take vacations. She said she once saw a $7,000 check lying on a desk, and was surprised at the gap between her pay and theirs.

In a statement to ABC News, Visa said their janitorial staff is contracted through a third party vendor. “All wages, bonuses and benefits are handled directly by the service vendors,” the statement said. “We greatly appreciate their work and dedication to our facilities.”

Her grandchildren say they still believe in the American dream. Her grandson Danny said he would like to be an astronaut one day. But for now, he said he just wants a drawer to himself.

“It’s hard living in the house because you don’t have that much room, gets crowded,” he said. “I would have a drawer to put all my clothes in.”

About half of American adults lived in middle-income households in 2014, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. Pew Research offers an income calculator feature on their website that allows you to see whether you are part of the American middle class.

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Defense Intelligence Agency(NEW YORK) — Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. invited the Trump administration to Syrian peace talks during a phone call in December — on the same day the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia in retaliation for its hacking during the U.S. election — a Trump spokesperson said Friday.

Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak extended the invitation to the talks, which are scheduled for later this month, during a phone call with President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on December 29th, the day the U.S. issued sanctions and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the country.

The Obama administration was unsuccessful in securing a seat in Syria peace negotiations during talks with Russia and other regional powers and has been excluded from the most recent rounds. The next talks about Syria are scheduled for January 23rd in Astana, Kazakhstan, three days after Trump takes office.

Spicer initially told reporters the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak only focused on arranging a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump after the Inauguration.

“They exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call,” Spicer said. “That was it. Plain and simple.”

But Spicer later told ABC News the phone call included an invitation from the Russian ambassador to the Syrian peace talks. He emphasized that the topic of U.S. sanctions against Russia did not come up during the conversation.

Spicer said that Flynn and Kislyak exchanged text messages greetings on Christmas day. On December 29th, the same day the Obama administration announced its response to Russia’s election-related hacking, Kislyak sent Flynn a text message asking if they could speak by phone. Flynn accepted the invitation, Spicer said. Spicer initially told reporters they spoke on the phone on December 28th, but later told ABC News he misspoke and clarified the call occurred on December 29th.

The Russian embassy declined to comment specifically on the call, but confirmed the ambassador will attend Trump’s inauguration.

“The Embassy does not comment on multiple contacts, which are carried out on a daily basis with local interlocutors,” a spokesperson for the Russian embassy told ABC News. “According to the practice and protocol rules, foreign ambassadors are invited to the U.S. president’s inauguration. The invitation to the event addressed to Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak was received from the State Department. The ambassador will participate in the event.”

The Washington Post previously reported Flynn spoke with Kislyak multiple times on December 29th, the same day the Obama administration formally announced sanctions and kicked 35 Russian diplomats out of the country.

The State Department and the White House both agreed Friday that there’s nothing wrong with the incoming administration making contact with diplomats, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he could neither raise an objection to this specific call nor deem it appropriate without knowing exactly what was said.

“As a general matter, you know on principle, you can imagine why these kinds of interactions may have taken place, why the incoming national security advisor may have the need to contact the representative of a foreign government based here in Washington D.C.,” Earnest told reporters at the White House briefing Friday. “It depends on what they discussed. It depends on what he said, in terms of whether or not we would have significant objections about those conversations.”

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KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Scandal-plagued airbag manufacturer Takata has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay $1 billion in criminal penalties for selling defective inflators that killed 11 people in the U.S. and injured more than 180 others nationwide, the Justice Department announced Friday.

According to the DOJ, Takata — which supplies airbag parts to Honda, Toyota and other auto manufacturers –- falsified reports to conceal failures during testing, including repeated ruptures of ammonium nitrate inflators, which can spew shrapnel into the cab of a vehicle. Even after the ruptures began to cause injury and deaths on the roadways, the DOJ said company executives continued to withhold accurate testing data.

“Takata was supposed to be selling products that saved lives, not pushing into the marketplace products that increased the risk of harm to consumers,” said Sandra Moser, of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. “Time and again, it put profit and production schedules ahead of people’s safety.”

Takata will have to pay $150 million — $125 million in victim compensation and another $25 million in criminal fines -– in the next 30 days. The remainder — $850 million –- will be distributed over time to the automakers forced to replace the faulty inflators.

“If it’s true, shame on them,” said Corey Burdick, who lost his eye after the driver’s side airbag in his Honda Accord ruptured, sending a 3-inch long jagged piece of metal into his face. “They killed a lot of people and they hurt a lot of people.”

Some victim advocates are concerned the settlement pays too much to the automakers, and doesn’t set aside enough for those injured by the inflators – especially because the number of victims could increase as long as defective products remain unrepaired in cars.

More than 60 million inflators in 42 million vehicles either have been or will be recalled, but due to a scarcity of replacement parts, just 12.5 million have been repaired to date, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Three of the company’s top executives — Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi – were indicted for their role in the scandal.

Friday’s announcement comes on the heels of another major auto industry settlement: On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced Volkswagen will pay $4.3 billion and plead guilty in its diesel emissions scandal. The company has admitted they installed “defeat devices” designed to cheat U.S. emissions tests in about half a million cars nationwide.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Dow Jones Industrial Average dragged behind the Nasdaq, which reached a new record, and the S&P 500 on Friday ahead of the holiday weekend.

The Dow slid 5.27 (-0.03 percent) to finish at 19,885.73.

The Nasdaq gained 26.63 (+0.48 percent) to close at 5,574.12, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,274, up 4.20 (+0.18 percent) from its open.

Crude oil prices, about $53 a barrel, sunk 1 percent.

Winners and Losers: Major banks in the U.S. (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo) posted profits in the fourth-quarter that beat investors’ expectations, aided by the post-presidential election of Donald Trump. Bank of America closed under 1 percent in the green, JPMorgan jumped 1 percent, and Wells Fargo added about 1.5 percent.

A staff shake-up at Walmart Stores, Inc. sent its stock down 1 percent after the retail giant promoted several executives from recently-acquired Jet.com.

Naked Brand Group Inc was one of the top earners Friday on news the fashion brand was planning to merge with swimwear and intimate apparel-maker Bendon Limited. Naked Brand skyrocketed over 63 percent.

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