Review Category : Top Stories

Putin Talks Ukraine, Tension with U.S., Defends Actions

Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia) — Speaking with reporters on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin touched on a number of touchy subjects including the tense relationship between Russia and the United States and the situation in the Ukraine.

With Putin apparently set to attend an event for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France. The Russian president said he is “not going to avoid” the Western leaders who have denounced his country’s actions in Ukraine. “As for conversations and meetings, I will come, of course, if nothing changes from the point of view of the host of the event, President Hollande…I’ll eagerly meet with any of my colleagues,” Putin said.

Asked specifically about the tension between the U.S. and Russia, Putin shrugged off the possibility of the return of the Cold War, saying that “no one needs [that],” and “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” He also gave no credence to the idea that he is trying to revive the Soviet Union, saying that “people are trying to label us as such, that we’re trying to restore the empire, the Soviet Union, to bring everybody under our influence. But this is totally inaccurate.”

On the subject of Ukraine, Putin said that he was prepared to engage in gas talks, but that he wants “constructive dialogue…based not on demands or ultimatums with unclear motivations but on civilized market work.” Putin also made comments tinged with sarcasm, implying that Ukraine is uninterested in having a legitimate president.

In all, Putin defended Russian actions over the last few months, particularly in the annexation of Crimea, by calling them “proportional” to Ukraine’s actions. “We believe that there was an attempt to speak to us in a language of force, and so we made a proportional response,” the Russian president claimed.

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Pope Speaks Out Against Violence in Syria

Photo by Jordan Pix /Getty Images(AMMAN, Jordan) — Pope Francis spoke out strongly against the violence in Syria on Saturday while in Amman for the first of three days in the Middle East.

Speaking in Italian, the pope offered a prayer for the “criminals,” urging their conversion and that they “change their hearts.” He broke from his scripted speech to discuss the situation.

“Change the hearts of those who plan wars, convert those who manufacture weapons and sell them. Strengthen the heart of the peacemakers,” the pope said near the end of his appearance at a church near the Jordan River.

The pope also said that those selling the weapons are driven by greed to seek profits.

Francis will remain in Jordan overnight before traveling to Jerusalem for day two of his Middle East trip on Sunday.

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Yelp Allows Users to Search Using Emojis

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Lazy typers and emoji enthusiasts can now take advantage of a cheat in the Yelp mobile app that allows users to search for local businesses using the popular icons.

While it’s not entirely perfect, a quick test using the shoe, sushi, police officer and tropical drink icons yielded accurate results of locations where users could find those people or items.

The sad emoji, however, seemed to bring up a mix of nearby places. Also of note, a search using a smiley emoji pulled up a list of nearby delis, proving that sometimes happiness is a pastrami sandwich.

So go ahead, and let your favorite emoji set the tone for your night.

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Three Dead, One Wounded in Shooting at Jewish Museum in Brussels

NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images(BRUSSELS, Belgium) — Three people were fatally shot and one wounded in a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on Saturday.

According to the Belgian Interior Minister, the shooter arrived at the museum in a car, stepped out and fired on a number of people near the museum’s entrance before getting back into the car, which sped away. It was not immediately clear whether he acted alone or with a partner or partners.

The Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur called the shooting a “terrorist act,” and noted that the site — the Jewish Museum — “isn’t a coincidence.”

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At Least Ten Killed in Mogadishu Terrorist Attack

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOGADISHU, Somalia) — Islamist militants attacked the Somali parliament in Mogadishu on Saturday morning, killing at least 10 people.

The BBC News reports that a car bomb exploded outside the gates of the parliament building at about 9 a.m. local time. Attackers then stormed the front of the building while security forces fired back.

The attack is believed to have been perpetrated by members of the al-Shabab movement.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Saturday condemning the attack. Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department said that the U.S. continues to “stand firmly with the Federal Government of Somalia.” Harf also called the attack “cowardly,” and a “heinous act of terrorism.”

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Pope Francis Begins Middle East Trip in Jordan

Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(AMMAN, Jordan) — Pope Francis has begun his Middle East trip in Jordan on Saturday and hopes to bring a message of hope to Christians in the Middle East.

The official purpose of the trip is to meet with the patriarch of Constantinople, the “first among equals” leader of the world’s orthodox Christians. The event will mark the 50th anniversary of their predecessors meeting in Jerusalem. At the time, the meeting was the first time a pope had met with an orthodox leader in 1,000 years.

Pope Francis hopes to address the Syrian conflict during the trip as well, demonstrating commitment to ending the violence in Syria.

Pope Francis is the first pope in years to make a trip to the Middle East without a dark cloud over his head. Prior to Pope Benedict’s trip to the Holy Land he had made comments that received major criticism from Muslims. Even Pope John Paul the Second had controversially allowed nuns to build a convent near Auschwitz.

Jordan is a predominantly Muslim country, but King Abdullah has made an effort to bring the religious communities of Jordan together, similar to the effort made by his father King Hussein.

Pope Francis will continue his trip in Jerusalem on Sunday.

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NASA Releases Photo of Earth Made of Selfies

Image Credit: NASA(NEW YORK) — What if the Earth was made of selfies?

NASA asked earthlings to send in their selfies on Earth Day this year, hoping to use a picture as a pixel and to create a mosaic image that would like the Earth from space.

NASA released the photo this week, which consisted of 36,422 individual photos that were posted on social media and tagged #globalselfie on or around April 22, 2014.

People from 113 countries took part, spanning from Antarctica to Yemen, Greenland to Guatemala.

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Iranian Official Faces US Sanctions for Human Rights Abuses

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Department of Treasury announced sanctions against an Iranian government official Friday, citing his involvement in censorship and other activities limiting freedom of expression and assembly in the country.

Morteza Tamaddon, head of the Tehran Provincial Public Security Council, is said to have used his authority in harassing Iranian political opposition leaders and to cut off mobile communications during protests.

“The United States is keenly focused on promoting opportunities for the Iranian people to fully exercise their universal rights,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “We will continue building on the U.S. Government’s longstanding efforts to contest the Iranian government censorship of the Iranian people.”

Tamaddon’s U.S. assets will be frozen and Americans are banned from engaging in business with him.

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US Issues Thailand Travel Alert Following Coup

(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Department of State issued a new travel warning for citizens planning to travel to Thailand, urging tourists to be cautious following the recent coup declared by the Royal Thai Army.

The government recommends citizens to “reconsider any non-essential” travel to the country as a result of ongoing political and social unrest, as well as what is deemed “an indefinite nighttime curfew” throughout the region.

Demonstrations meant to be peaceful can escalate into violence, officials warned, citing recent protests that involved guns and explosive devices.

On Thursday, Thailand’s military announced it had taken control of the country’s government, banned political gatherings, and imposed restrictions on the media. A nationwide daily curfew is said to be in place from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.

The U.S. has suspended part of the $10.5 million it gives to Thailand, with $3.5 million in foreign military funding and international miiltary education and training held back.

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S&P 500 Closes at Record High, Stocks End Week With Gains

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stocks ended the week on a high note Friday, with the S&P 500 closing above 1,900 for the first time.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 63 points at 16,606.27. The Nasdaq Composite closed up 32 points at 4,185.81, and the S&P 500 gained 8 points for an historic end to the session.

The gains came with new home sales figures after the Commerce Department announced an increase of nearly 6.5 percent in April. Sales are on the rebound after a winter slump, though they’re coming at a slower pace, reports say.

Active employees are happy employees, according to a survey by CareerBuilder. Data shows the top complaints of workers at desk-bound jobs include lack of outside activity, weight gain, and sitting in front of a computer for hours.

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